Well, really! Women deacons?

There has been much discussion at Vatican Headquarters about the issue of women deacons. It is always pointed out that such deacons are to be found in the early Church. But that doesn’t settle the matter because the issue is not about women who hold formal positions in the work but ordained powers, skirting on priestly duties at the altar. Would the existence of women deacons lead eventually to consecration or granting God’s absolution through Confession? Scripture does not mention any of this relating to women. Following three years of study, the papal commission was unable to decide. Interestingly, as a recent article in the National Catholic Reporter (by Jamie Manson) describes, Francis himself holds the issue to remain uncertain. Perhaps we can help?

My first reaction is that in those days women’s status in society was very different. Their typical function was to give birth and to care for children. At that time a married woman might usually be child bearing throughout her post-pubertal life. Her functions in society were necessarily personal and in the nature of service. Moreover, in the close background were the pagan religions who often favoured female gods. The ordained female, carrying the powers of the Church, was unthinkable. Indeed this attitude towards women still exists not only in other countries and religions but the relics are in our own.

But this of course does not settle the matter, it merely suggests that the absence of ordained females in the early Church is not a useful argument. We still have to answer whether the nature of the female is unsuited to ordination. Unquestionably in modern societies there has been considerable change in this regard – although it still has a way to go. But we have certainly reached a stage where refusing equal privileges to women looks merely quaint. Indeed the presence of women in ordained roles in other Christian denominations appears to have been advantageous.

But does the Church have the power to ordain women – either as deacons or priests? How can that be answered except through the mind of God? Bad news for someone who has been apparently absolved by a woman, or received the Eucharist at a Mass whose celebrant was female.

My own view is just my own view: I believe that women should be ordained as priests and deacons. I have no doubt that this would benefit the whole Catholic community, and, perhaps, put right what has now become an injustice. Were this to come about it would have the same validity as any other serious teaching – whether from Pope of Council. I realise that many readers would disagree, so this column gives us an opportunity to exchange the arguments.

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Pope Francis, Quentin queries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to Well, really! Women deacons?

  1. Nektarios says:

    This issue of women in ordained positions as deacons and priests is a thorny issue for many, raising all sorts of objections against and arguments for women to be ordained.

    I feel many in the hierarchy, bishops, priests and deacons are beginning now to feel the heat and resentment by many that are for women’s ordination and the protectionist attitude of the male clergy not only in the Catholic Church but other denominations too.

    I feel there is a lot of ignorance around this issue of women’s ordination and a lot of liberal politicising over the years that has led to many female clergies and a few bishops being forced into the positions on issues such as equality with men.

    So what is the mind of God on the matter?

    Perhaps we can get the discussion going on this issue of female ordination with God’s mind on the matter. It is clear the early Christian Churches had females in different offices, but this was not seen as something to be fought over.

    One could be a priest, a deacon, a preacher or a teacher in the Church then. But what was clearly understood then, but less so now, was the difference between Headship and Leadership.

    Taken from the creative ordinance of God, headship can only be a man.
    Leadership can be a man or a woman.

    • Peter says:

      The arguments against the ordination of women both from from theology and tradition are gathered in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (22 May 1994), are they compatible with the notion that women are fully human beings?

      • milliganp says:

        Replying now to Peter. Sorry, but at the moment by library is in boxes in a warehouse, but I understand that the teaching expounded in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is that the matter for the sacrament of ordination is a male human being. It doesn’t say women aren’t human but that they cannot represent God’s free choice to make Christ a male member of the human race.

    • David Smith says:

      Nektarios writes:

      // Taken from the creative ordinance of God, headship can only be a man.
      Leadership can be a man or a woman. //

      Could you expand a bit on that?

      • Nektarios says:

        David Smith

        Gladly, even though what I have to say on the issue runs contrary to much religious/liberal and societal thinking today. Very well, When God created man Adam in His own image,
        Adam had authority over creation, in the naming of animals etc.

        After some time, God saw that it was not good that man should be alone, and out of Adam God created Eve.

        Now, here we either accept God’s word or we don’t, following some trendy liberal agenda.

        God by the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, wrote: ‘ But I want you to know, that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.’ 1 Corinthians 11: 3

        Again, more explicitly, 1 Corinthians 11:6- 15.
        Here the Apostle is laying out the argument or the doctrine on the matter.

        Take stock of 1Cor.11:8-9. ‘For man is not from woman, but woman from the man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man’.

        Then the Apostle shows us something of the right relation man should have toward the woman and the woman toward the man. I Cor. 11: 11-12.
        The Apostle shows us the danger sin has wrought in God’s creative ordinance in us and relationships with each other of the opposite sex. ICor 11:11.
        Is this independence, female emancipation as some call it is the root of many relationship problems.
        There is an interdependence between man and woman in our nature level and independence by either man or the woman goes against our nature and the creative ordinance of God. and our own happiness.

      • milliganp says:

        I’m just replying, at this point, to Nektarios’ use of Genesis. It’s interesting that so many go straight to the second account of creation rather than the first – in Genesis 1:27; In this account man and woman are created together and jointly in the image and likeness of God; indeed, it s possible to read into this account that the image of God reaches its fullness in humanity in man and woman united in marriage. The other point is one of language, the OT was written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek and Latin; the word adam means human and is not the particular name of an individual. To correctly understand the original in English I believe you need to read “So God created human in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them”.
        This doesn’t speak directly to whether women should be deacons – or by some extension priests or bishops, but to how humans relate, in our nature, to God.

      • David Smith says:

        milliganp writes:

        // To correctly understand the original in English I believe you need to read “So God created human in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them”. //

        “Creature” has also been used. Eternal being created a creature. Then it created another creature. Instructive, ideologically correct. Say no more. Move on.

    • milliganp says:

      Nektarios, you state // It is clear the early Christian Churches had females in different offices //
      I’ve read a fair bit of church history and writings on the issue of women’s ordination but I’m not aware of any evidence that women performed the roles we now associate with Priest or Bishop in the early church.
      I also disagree that you can so easily differentiate leadership and headship.

  2. John Thomas says:

    Quentin, my attitude as an Anglican, is much that of … Anne Widdecombe (a Catholic!), namely that the C of E was maybe right to ordain women (I think I’ve got that bit right, apologies to AW if not), but allowed it FOR THE WRONG REASONS, in other words, they did it because they wanted to appear “with it” and “of our times”, there was much pressure (from within and without) from feminism, and the justice argument (which you use – a weak one, I consider) – but there was no THEOLOGICAL, as to if women could do Christ’s work, etc.; all that was trumped by “social and cultural” considerations (I’m sure I have got AW right on this aspect). So personally I ignore all the cultural stuff, concentrate on theology … and come out in favour (my view) of “WO”. Recently, the C of E has had a big traumatic controversey – feminists (now priests) with all guns blazing, of course … triumphalist, ambitiuous, and without any humility or feeling for those who disagree with them – regarding women bishops (you stop at priests – is that significant?): but if one is going to have women priests, I can’t for the life of me see what objection there can be to women bishops/archbishops. Incidentally, I conside the “society has changed greatly since the Early Church” argument can lead in many directions, some of which we may not like …

    • David Smith says:

      John Thomas writes:

      // So personally I ignore all the cultural stuff, concentrate on theology … and come out in favour (my view) of “WO”. //

      “WO”? Women ordination? So how does your theology rationalize women priests, bishops, popes?

      My vague, untutored sense of “theology” is that it’s become just another academic pseudo-discipline, another overly intellectualized tool for reading tea leaves and coming up with “truth”. Doubtless that’s unfair, ignorant, sour grapes. But, still, I think Quentin wants this sort of thing spelled out. And I’m curious. Nektarios points to Scripture to support the traditional reading. Milliganp says that Scripture needs to be re-translated to support this new reading. Francis seems to want his theologians to do the same thing: tell me how tradition and theology can be made to justify it, and I’m in. How does theology alone do it for you?

      I’m skeptical, but always open to learning.

      • milliganp says:

        David, I was not suggesting that we need to re-translate scripture, just be careful in reading it to understand the original meaning. I was not making the point to create some arbitrary justification for women to become priests.

      • David Smith says:

        milliganp writes:

        // I was not suggesting that we need to re-translate scripture, just be careful in reading it to understand the original meaning. //

        Aren’t those pretty much the same thing? If the existing translations muddy the original meanings, doesn’t that at least imply a need for another translation to clear things up? That might not follow if there were not already so many re-translations abroad, but there are, no? Translators and publishers seem to be on a roll. And then we have the additional recent precedent of the Pope single-handedly changing the Pater Noster.

        Seriously, it seems to me that what might be quite helpful, at least in English, is a thorough re-writing of all of Scripture to make it make sense to minds unaccustomed to the archaic and obscure language I’ve noticed in just about all the translations I’ve been exposed to. This could exist aside from all the official more or less literal translations, as a kind of pony for the non-specialist mind.

  3. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // My own view is just my own view: I believe that women should be ordained as priests and deacons. I have no doubt that this would benefit the whole Catholic community, and, perhaps, put right what has now become an injustice. //

    This seems to be just one more of those issues that divide Catholics who want clear rules and guidelines from those who want the Church to relax and follow the secular flow.

  4. Nektarios says:

    Milliganp

    Your posting is all over the place and if you read my posting to David Smith you would see what the Apostle Paul and other Apostles taught on the matter.

    Should a woman become a deacon, a priest? The answer is yes, for contrary to what is taught today, deacons and priests are servants in and to the Church performing their duties in the services
    of the Church. They do not hold the authority but follow and obey the authority over them. Because of what I outlined from I Corinthians chapter 11, the creative ordinance of God has the man as head of the woman, but it goes much further than that to deep down into the nature of man God created.
    The Fall and sin having entered in, so also the problems often referred to by liberal folk as ” the battle of the sexes. But, God has not changed His creative ordinance concerning male and female
    and the right relationship one to the other to suit any so-called modern thinking philosophically or theologically. Modern thinking does not generally think of God and His ways, but start from themselves and their own particular problems.

    The creative ordinance I explained above to David Smith, it has to do with order and the authority of the man over the woman and the right relationship between the two.
    If one does not accept God’s creative ordinance, one has invented their own versions of that. It does not take much to see where such inventions lead to, so good luck with your opinions.

  5. Hock says:

    Leaving the theology aside for now we have had in our Diocese as early as last week our Bishop’s Pastoral Letter in which he states that in the Diocese we have only one man in training to be priest who is due to be ordained soon. That is it! No priests in training and no men in training for the Permanent Diaconate.

    The issue of women priests may well be a thorny one but you would be hard pressed to make an argument for it not being a success in the Anglican community and objections were long since silenced in that community.

    Why should it be any different for the Catholic Community? Just get on with it , and married priests too while they are at it.

    Incidentally are there not some Dioceses in the UK where Bishops still refuse to ordain men to the Permanent Diaconate? If true, then what hope for change?!

  6. David Smith says:

    Hock writes:

    // The issue of women priests may well be a thorny one but you would be hard pressed to make an argument for it not being a success in the Anglican community and objections were long since silenced in that community.

    Why should it be any different for the Catholic Community? Just get on with it , and married priests too while they are at it. //

    It appears that though homosexuality has traditionally been disapproved of by the Church, the Church, nevertheless, has been consecrating many actively homosexual priests. Maybe it should start doing the same for females, at least if there’s a compelling reason for thinking that they’d fill the priest gap. Maybe, first, get the foot in the door by ordaining married males. Just do it, looking the other way, until it’s the new tradition. Maybe start in Germany, which seems to have a leg up on progressive thinking. Or just do it anyway, priest gap or not, because it’s required by “social justice”. Get with the program, get woke. That’ll do the trick. Um, what trick?

  7. milliganp says:

    As another point of departure in this discussion; several years ago Pope Benedict changed Canon Law and the Catechism to more strongly define the differentiation of the role of the Deacon vs that of a Priest in relation to their Bishop. I thought at the time that he may have been considering a pathway to admit women to a ministry similar to the Diaconate without creating the idea of this inevitably leading to women priests.
    As a deacon, I’ve read several works on the role of the deacon in the early church; the roles were primarily related to care of the sick, support of widows and orphans and the preparation of catechumens for baptism. There is evidence that alongside the male deacons there were consecrated widows in order to maintain propriety with women who were sick or being prepared for baptism. There is evidence that the form of the consecration of these widows was the same as or very similar to that of the Deacons and some would thus say that there were women deacons in the early church.

  8. milliganp says:

    One of the things that the Catholic Church encourages is the study of the early church fathers to understand the thinking of those closest in time to ministry of Christ. Below is a quote from one early writer. St Epiphanius was a bishop in Crete at the end of the 4th Century.

    St. Epiphanius, Against Heresies 79. 304 wrote: “If women were ordained to be priests for God or to do anything canonical in the church, it should rather have been given to Mary… . She was not even entrusted with baptizing… Although there is an order of deaconesses in the church, yet they are not appointed to function as priests, or for any administration of this kind, but so that provision may be made for the propriety of the female sex…

  9. milliganp says:

    A document that gives us an insight into the early organisation of the church – and the problems which arose is Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy. There is quite a useful introduction to its structure and purpose on YouTube at https://youtu.be/7RoqnGcEjcs
    This includes references to the role of women in the early church. The author points out that there are differing interpretations of Paul’s instructions in relation to Women and ministry but the overview seems to be sound.

  10. David Smith says:

    There’s a thoughtful article on the topic in hand by Matthew Schmitz in the current issue of the Herald. Here’s the final paragraph:

    // Though women’s ordination is of course an impossibility, in one sense its advocates have a point. They are pushing, from the wrong side, against the untenable modus vivendi that has prevailed since the Second Vatican Council. Even some conservative Catholics speak as though the Church could in fact reverse itself on matters like religious freedom and the death penalty. It is now harder than ever to explain why women cannot someday be ordained. Pope Francis’s actions regarding the death penalty and Communion for the remarried have heightened the contradictions, exposing the hermeneutic of continuity to the attacks of Lefebvrists and liberals alike. //

    https://magazine.catholicherald.co.uk/2019/05/16/women-deacons-and-the-churchs-confusion/content.html

  11. Iona says:

    Milliganp quotes St. Epiphanius as saying that Mary “was not even entrusted with baptising”. Not as far as we know, no. Nevertheless, although baptism is normally carried out by a priest, it is recognised that in an emergency anyone can baptise (e.g. someone in danger of death), priest or not, man or woman.
    Similarly I have read somewhere – and I hope someone can identify the quote for me – that a mortally wounded knight on a battlefield, recognising that he is at the point of death and conscious of unconfessed sin, should confess that sin to his squire in the absence of a priest; or in the absence of his squire, he should confess to his horse.
    So the administration of at least two of the seven sacramants, though normally carried out by a (currently male) priest, can be carried out by a substitute – though admittedly the horse cannot give absolution – in certain circumstances.

  12. Iona says:

    The sacrament of marriage is administered by husband and wife to each other; I understand the priest is present as a witness only. Ordination is carried out by a bishop – not by a non-bishop priest.
    Only a priest can celebrate Mass, consecrating bread and wine such that it becomes the body and blood of Our Lord, on which the priest and congregation can feed. In natural life, a mother quite literally feeds her infant – unborn, and for some months after birth – on her body and blood. Far from a woman being unable to be a priest, she already is one in essence. Ordination makes a (male) priest into an honorary woman.

  13. John Nolan says:

    Quentin writes: ‘But does the Church have the power to ordain women – either as deacons or priests? How can that be answered except through the mind of God? Bad news for anyone who has apparently been absolved by a woman, or received the Eucharist at a Mass whose celebrant was female.’

    The Church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women as priests. If you can’t accept that, then you might as well use your subjective judgement to reject anything else the Church defines as part of the deposit of Faith, including the Eucharist itself, which makes the sex of the celebrant irrelevant, since he (or she) is not really doing anything with the bread and wine.

    If it could be shown conclusively that deaconesses in the early Church were ordained in exactly the same way as deacons to perform exactly the same task, then the Church would indeed have the authority to ordain women deacons. However, what evidence we have is inconclusive, and in some cases contradictory.

    I don’t understand the last sentence. A woman cannot validly celebrate Mass or absolve sins, so what is the bad news and to whom does it apply?

    • John Candido says:

      I find it absolutely amazing that the ordination of women Catholic priests has such importance that it will excite some folk to a lather.

      The ‘bad news’ that Quentin is referring to is for liberals.

  14. Nektarios says:

    John Nolan

    I can see the sensitivities with some on the issue of women priests. However, look at the issue priests for a moment. Such so-called powers they are supposed to have such as turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ was something that came in much later.

    The issue of the priest alone has the power to absolve one of their sins did not come in until around the 1800s when it was used to boost the poor and bad state of the clergy in the eyes of the people.

    Every Christian has the right to come boldly before the throne of Grace. Here our Lord hears our requests and petitions. Here alone Christ absolves sin when we ask Him, for no one else can.
    The Christian does not need a mediator between Christ and themselves.
    The format of the Lord’s prayer which He taught us includes forgiving us of our sins when in faith we penitently ask Him.

    I know this upsets some people, but it is not my intention.

    • milliganp says:

      Nektarios, the most upsetting aspect of your posting is its total lack of accuracy. The doctrine that only a priest can confect the Eucharist is founded in Apostolic practice and although the differentiation between apostle, bishop and priest evolved in the era covered by Acts and the Epistles of Paul, it was certainly documented by late in the first century since which the Catholic and Orthodox traditions have been broadly similar. It was only with the repudiation of the True Presence by Protestant reformers that the role of the priest became less pivotal to the sacraments.
      The history of auricular confession, as practised in the Catholic church is less clear or certain; it would appear to have emerged out of monastic practice and became part of western Catholicism as Europe was re-christianised. The theology of the sacrament was restated by the council of Trent in the 16th Century but this was merely to repudiate the Protestant reformers and based on much previous tradition. It most certainly was not an 18th Century invention.
      The theology of the sacrament is founded in scripture (John 20:23).

      • Nektarios says:

        Milliganp

        The words, Apostle is reserved for the Apostles. In the Early Church in Acts what was put in place by the Apostles, along with the doctrine, teaching and practice of the Church.
        There were bishops and they were sometimes called Elders or Overseers which words used were interchangeable, and deacons.

        The priest as is used and utilized by the Church today has little or no resemblance to that of the Early Church. They were servants to the people of God not Lords or rulers over the Household of God. All were elected by the local congregation including the Bishop. They were all known to the congregation and the gifts of the Spirit they possessed.

        What the Protestants were against on this was transubstantiation. For that was in ritualistic form to crucify the Lord afresh. It also in their view to earthbound the Lord of Glory who had ascended on high.
        This did not mean the repudiation of the True Presence at all, rather it was spiritual and eternal and partaking of the bread and wine after it was blessed by the elder, priest, Bishop, Overseer was held in reverence and partaken of in a spiritual sense only, for the nourishment of our spiritual life. It was the spiritual life’s food of sustenance.

        The matter of confession I agree with you in its format came out of monasticism. It was not called confession then, but the ‘revealing of thoughts’ and for the monks, it was the revealing of every thought to the confessor of their individual choice.

        Forgiving one another of sin or retaining as we read in John 20:23 is not the same thing as Absolution only the Lord can do that, for the priest is also a sinner and has not got that power and never did, it was an ecclesiastic act to prop up a failing priesthood in the eyes of the people. They were also at that time taking money for such a service.

  15. galerimo says:

    We just don’t get it. And Jesus knows we don’t. But He never gives up on us.

    The fact of the Incarnation alone, you would think, would be enough to establish in our own hearts, God’s truth. We are all one now in Jesus. Equally loved, equally redeemed and equally in receipt of God’s offer of Glory.

    Time and again Jesus points to how his good news subverts our world order and our way of seeing and doing things. Little children love one another.

    The good men in the story of the Good Samaritan were shown up to be failures when they were matched against the Samaritan terrorist who crossed over and helped. Our standards, our labels of discrimination mean nothing to God.

    It didn’t seem fair to the boy who stayed and conformed, and it hardly seems fair to us that the father in the story of the prodigal son makes a fuss over the scoundrel who repents and returns to him. Our standards of order and equality are undermined right here too.

    And the labourer who was hired in the final hour of the day and got paid as much as the ones who started early. That stand on equality and treating people like there are all the same is too outrageous for us.

    The truth is that God is Free, is freedom itself. And Jesus makes us free too. We are liberated from our instinctive divisiveness in Him. We are free to serve God.

    We can serve in a million creative and wonderful ways because of that liberating grace that Jesus shares with us through his gift of God’s Spirit today.

    But we choose to stay stuck in our own rusted on way of discriminating along lines that have nothing to do with loving and serving God.

    We just cant help ourselves building structures based on self promotion that exclude others.

    Especially women.

  16. John Nolan says:

    galerimo

    Parables are symbolic. They are not meant to be taken literally. Samaritans were discriminated against by orthodox Jews, but were hardly terrorists. Are you confusing them with Palestinians?

    • milliganp says:

      Apologies in advance for a bad joke in a serious blog but the question was put “What is the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist?” to which the reply is “You can negotiate with a terrorist”. Sadly, those who would modernise the church are often the least willing to hear the views of others.

      • Peter says:

        Regarding your first comment way above.
        Traditional views expressed or inferred from the Bible or developed in the Middle Ages came from within in a context:

        In antiquity and until the eighteenth century women needed to have about nine children to maintain a population in the face of famine, war and infant mortality and disease.

        The world was believed to be comprised of air, earth, fire and water. By the middle ages all known aspects of weather, minerals, physiology, geography and so on were classified on this basis in great detail. In this theory their hundreds of varieties came from the relative proportions of the four parts.

        Women because of their lesser strength, childbearing and place in the theory of humours had a separate place, rather as inferior versions of men.

        These ideas persisted into the nineteenth century, for example, medical bloodletting; and Jane Austin not attending her brother’s funeral.

        Milligamp admits a difference but insists that the difference does not impact on the humanity of women vis a vis men. In my view an absolute non-qualification for ordination would exhibit a fundamental defect in women’s humanity.

      • Nektarios says:

        milliganp

        Modernisers in the Church are not interested in the Church or the people of God, and I agree with you they are the least willing to hear the views of others, worse they want to propagate their own agendas showing it is man-centred.

        However, that thankfully is not my position. Loving the Church and praying the Kingdom of God would come, and pray for it, I seek it to be revived by the Spirit of God and reformed, that is, to return to what it professes in its Creed, but duly ignores in much of its practice, namely the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice.

      • milliganp says:

        Peter, I understand your chain of thought. Until at least the 1960’s women were not even allowed to enter the sanctuary based on what we would now see as absurd misconceptions about ritual purity.
        The reservation of order to men is about the free choice of God to become incarnate in the male gender and to choose men as the leaders of the infant church. A priest does not merely image God but he images Christ.
        Given the broken lives I have experienced both as an individual and as one in ministry, I would love the church to find some way of more positively ministering to those whose lives are scarred by broken marriages but “sadly” Jesus himself in unequivocal on the matter as is St. Paul. As church we try to live the words of the Lord’s prayer “thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”. To do this we need to discern God’s will.
        I once had a female colleague who felt great injustice at the exclusion of women from priestly ministry and so I read extensively the literature produced by those advocating women’s ordination in the Anglican church. I read, hoping to find something which would convince me that the Catholic church could one day follow the same path – but found nothing that held up to serious scrutiny. We have to admit the possibility that this is actually God’s will.

  17. milliganp says:

    Since this blog is notionally about women deacons, I thought it might be useful to shed some light on the experience of deacons in the Catholic church today.
    I’ve been a deacon for nearly 19 years. In my formation I was told that the diaconate was a vital part of regenerating the church by adding another branch of ministry to collaborate with the ministry of priest and bishop.
    Deacons had been an important part of the life of the early church, they were introduced so that the apostles and other leaders of church communities could concentrate on the life of worship and preaching the Gospel while the deacons tended to the church’s ministry to the poor, the sick and the support of widows. They also came to act as a bridge between the laity and church leadership since they were more in contact with the day to day lives of the Christian community. By the third century the practice had arisen of each bishop having eight deacons and the deacons became the church’s administrators; deacons and priests were separate ministries and often, when a bishop died, it would often be a deacon elected to replace him – without ever having been a priest (so the hierarchy of orders is certainly not apostolic). However, as the church acquired power and wealth, the deacons – as administrators – became powerful and this led to resentment amongst other clergy; St Jerome wrote a tirade against the power of these “mere waiters at tables”! Thus, the diaconate disappeared other than a transitional level of ministry in the formation of priests (along with acolytes, lectors, sub deacons et al.)
    The Second Vatican Council felt that the role of deacon could be renewed to provide another ministry in the church – perhaps, particularly to act as a formal ministry for those involved in chaplaincy or other aspects of the church’s social outreach. Thus, the reintroduction of the permanent diaconate began.
    Because the diaconate is also associated with a ministry on the altar, in support of the priest, the first deacons were almost all MC’s in parishes that had adult altar server. This was perhaps not the best beginning because it became a case of saying “‘let’s have some deacon’s – and then decide what they do” rather than “what should the diaconate be about, and thus who should we encourage into this ministry”. Thus, the primary ministry of most deacons is to be glorified altar servers! It is easy to see how someone could then say, “if we have women servers, why not have women deacons?”
    So now, another problem arose; as our bishops had given little thought to what an authentic ministry of a deacon might be like – no specific roles or models of diaconal ministry were developed and no formation was given to priests on how they might collaborate with deacons, encourage vocations or form the laity for “the new man on the altar”. And then things got worse…
    Because of the fall in priestly vocations, most priests work alone and have done for most of their ministry – so they are not used to collaborating with anyone. Priests are celibate and the most deacons are married and have children; some priests have experience of having a curate or working with a parish sister, but these are also celibates – many priests just don’t have a model for working closely with a married person.
    And that’s just the beginning – I’ll post part 2 later with the sad details of the sorts of things that happen when:-
    – A deacon attends a clergy gathering where the priests think deacons aren’t clergy.
    – A deacon who has been encouraged and formed by a supporting PP finds himself with a new PP who doesn’t like deacons.
    – The bishop and team that initiated the diaconate in a diocese retire and the new bishop hasn’t a clue or much care for the ministry of deacons.
    – a deacon gets abused by his new PP and the bishop does nothing to support him.

    Whatever the admissibility of women to a form of ministry that might have existed in the early church – to admit women to a ministry which is not working is hardly likely to improve things.

    • Nektarios says:

      milliganp

      I can but agree and feel for you in the present state of affairs regarding deacons. Whatever the gifts of the people of God have as the Church, most of it is denied them and the hierarchies, bishops and priests have robbed the household of God of their gifts and taken them to themselves, even though they might not possess any one of them.
      They rely on their wits to keep people in ignorance and superstitious nonsense.

      I have noted over the last 40 years or so the clamour for woman Archbishops, Bishops, Priests and Deacons are coming from liberal and spiritually weak denominations and what they seek is is power and equality with men, not realizing they already have it but function differently from men.

      I have also noted, as you say, ‘ a ministry which is not working is hardly likely to improve things.’ This is the state in practically every Church today, hence I pray accordingly as I said earlier.

      Institutionalized religion can only produce second-hand or umpteen handed religious people. It cannot produce God’s will on the matter for it is man-centred and lacks spiritual power and understanding.
      The right way, of course, is Gods way and only God’s way. Alas, God’s way has been corrupted, and the narrative is controlled by the religious institutions which are self-fulfilling and little or nothing to do with God’s and Apostolic way today.

      • milliganp says:

        Nektarios
        There is an old saying “love the sinner, hate the sin”; sadly this applies to our bishops and priests; as Jesus says in Matthew 23 “The scribes and Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do and observe what they tell you; but do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practice what they preach.”
        It can be hard and, sometimes, it’s hard to believe there is an end to the tunnel.

    • galerimo says:

      This is an amazing insight. Thank you for your contribution and I do eagerly wait to read Part 2.

      It is very regrettable that anyone should have to suffer those contradictions in the exercise of ministry as you have done.

      I hope it has not diminished your own sense of personal vocation or worth in any way.

      In promoting the case for the ordination of women, I am not naive enough to think that it will be the answer to all our current needs as Church nor that it will be without its flaws and challenges.

      I am supporting the case for the recognition of equality, the welcoming of those who are called by Jesus to share in his priestly work and their proper preparation and training for the tasks it requires. The other half of our devoted Church population. Our women.

      • Martha says:

        I find it very difficult to understand how a woman can think she is called by God to do something which God’s church does not allow.

  18. Peter says:

    Milligamp, regarding your reply to my note way above:
    Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (22 May 1994) states that:
    “Christ’s way of acting did not proceed from sociological or cultural motives peculiar to his time.”
    However, the question of the validity of this statement depends on whether it is simply an assertion or is unequivocally supported by the prior discussion and quotations from scripture. I suggest it is open to challenge.

  19. ignatius says:

    Nektarios,

    “Institutionalized religion can only produce second-hand or umpteen handed religious people. It cannot produce God’s will on the matter for it is man-centred and lacks spiritual power and understanding.
    The right way, of course, is Gods way and only God’s way. Alas, God’s way has been corrupted, and the narrative is controlled by the religious institutions which are self-fulfilling and little or nothing to do with God’s and Apostolic way today…”

    Oh what utter pompous nonsense this is. What do you actually genuinely know of us?Have you been inside our hearts? Have you personally weighed our spirits or seen our service? Have you sat beside us in our prayers? do you know of how I or my fellow deacons spend our days? Are you there when we fulfill our vows as hospital or prison chaplains among the needy? shame on these glib little tirades. Tell us , when did you last comfort the sick? when did you last visit the prisoner? When did you last welcome the stranger or share their sorrows, Nektarios? when?

    As to difficulties in the church ..Ha..Ha!! read your New testament and see what you find there too.

    • Nektarios says:

      Ignatius
      Read what I wrote more carefully, it is not a judgement of you or my fellow believers at all,
      but the results of conditioned thinking and practice within religious institutions.
      Far from being glib or a little tirade, it is something known, understood and of first-hand experience from within the ministry.
      I was also sympathetic to Milligan’s posting and as a deacon today.
      Yes, we know there have always been problems within the Church from its early days.

  20. Peter says:

    Milligamp: regarding your reply way above:

    Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (22 May 1994) states that:
    “Christ’s way of acting did not proceed from sociological or cultural motives peculiar to his time.”
    However, the question of the validity of this statement depends on whether it is simply an assertion or is unequivocally supported by the prior discussion and quotations from scripture. I suggest it is open to challenge.

  21. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // My own view is just my own view: I believe that women should be ordained as priests and deacons. I have no doubt that this would benefit the whole Catholic community, and, perhaps, put right what has now become an injustice. //

    Quentin, where does it stop? What belief, dogma, rule, or guideline may not be changed or eliminated? Is there anything permanent and untouchable, or nothing? Who decides?

  22. David Smith says:

    Peter wrote, on 16 May:

    // The arguments against the ordination of women both from from theology and tradition are gathered in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (22 May 1994), are they compatible with the notion that women are fully human beings? //

    Do you really doubt that JP2 thought that females are “fully human”?

    Here’s that document:

    http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19940522_ordinatio-sacerdotalis.html

    Of course, “fully human” is an English phrase, and JP2 almost certainly did not write OS in English, and English is natural language, and natural language means whatever its speakers choose for it to mean, but, still, English is what we’re working with here. What, in OS, if anything, leads you to suspect that the Pope was looking down his Polish proboscis at all female humans?

  23. John Nolan says:

    ‘This teaching [that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women] requires definitive assent, since, founded on the Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

    Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren, has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere and by all, as belonging to the deposit of faith.’

    Response of the CDF to a dubium, approved by John Paul II, 28 October 1995.

    So whatever one’s personal views, there is no ‘yes, but …’

    Women were, and in many places still are, excluded from the sanctuary not for reasons of ‘ritual purity’ but because the sanctuary was reserved for clerics and those substituting for them; and a woman could not be a cleric, nor substitute for one.

    • John Candido says:

      If you ever wonder where clericalism may come from it is probably from these cold legal formulations emanating from a marbled edifice.

      There is something distant and discomforting about the same legal formulations.

      They choke-off mutual discussion, reasonableness, and common sense in theological discourse, as it changes from one age to another, in a stroke.

      Straight-jacketed legal formulations are useful as they clearly define the teaching or doctrine.

      Where they become problematical is when they are not open to any consideration whatsoever.

      Excluding women from the priesthood in 2019 looks and feels very out of place.

      Theresa May and Her Majesty The Queen are women, and so was Margaret Thatcher.

      Given the worldwide sexual abuse of children by some of our Catholic Clergy, women priests may be a development that is made for our age.

      Generally speaking, women are more finely tuned to the needs of children.

  24. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    HM The Queen is an hereditary monarch. She may be Supreme Governor of the Church of England but does not function as a priest in that Church. May and Thatcher were elected politicians; neither claimed the right to be priests as well.

    The question regarding the perennial and immutable doctrines of the Catholic Church is simply this – are they true, or are they not? If they are true, then no amount of discussion can alter them; if they are not, then the Church has taught falsehood for 2000 years, and so cannot be of God.

    Do you think that God changes his opinions to suit the transient fashions of the age? I ask in all honesty.

    • John Candido says:

      John Nolan

      There is nothing wrong in using precise language to describe any doctrine or teaching.

      When anyone starts using terms such as ‘perennial and immutable’ the church will eventually run into trouble.

      Doctrines are true, but like everything else are subject to careful reformulation when they accompany the people of God, from one age to another.

      I don’t think that God changes opinions thoughtlessly, flippantly or holds on to views in a cavalier manner, but I do believe that God takes note of and allows the progression of human history.

      It is God who gives us the freedom to question, seek greater understanding, discuss issues with peers, think, read, and write, test ideas, make comparisons, conduct research, synthesise observations and judgements, and learn more as we get older.

      • Nektarios says:

        It is an interesting comment from JC to JN., but it demonstrates a kind of doublespeak. The usual liberal wants their cake and eats it, against the certain perceived traditional RC teachings of JN. Both in my view have inherent grave errors in some of their views.

        For example, JC wrote, “Doctrines are true, but like everything else are subject to careful reformulation when they accompany the people of God, from one age to another.”

        Sorry, John, Apostolic doctrine does not change, does not require further reformulations to suit the latest theological, philosophical, or Papal pronouncements especially their ex-cathedra ones; for if it alters, detracts from or departs from the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice it is man-centred, earthy and spiritually powerless.
        This is not to understand the spiritual and eternal nature of what the Apostles wrote and taught in all, in what it says and teaches us. Following it, should help and lead us all to the right understanding and practice in any age of human history to the end of time.

        Next, based on what he just wrote, JC surmises, “I don’t think that God changes opinions thoughtlessly, flippantly or holds on to views in a cavalier manner, but I do believe that God takes note of and allows the progression of human history.”

        What is the rebellious, sinful, sad, helpless and hapless progression of human history?
        It demonstrates the natural man does not know God. will not serve God and know little or nothing of the spiritual life apart from the Prophets, and the Apostles doctrine, teaching and practice, nor does the Holy Spirit.
        Man, maybe making technological advances but it does not take much to see where so much of this technology is leading us all – into various forms of slavery.
        God does not hold the opinions of men as anything of value regarding the future and eternal destiny of mankind.
        The Power lies within Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice for that are what the Holy Spirit has given and works with if we are indeed to make progress spiritually.

        Lastly JC attempts to tie his ideas together, he writes “It is God who gives us the freedom to question, seek greater understanding, discuss issues with peers, think, read, and write, test ideas, make comparisons, conduct research, synthesise observations and judgements, and learn more as we get older.”

        It looks what JC says is sane rational and sensible, but in reality, it is far from that. This is precisely what this world does already and look at what it has done in the past and where it is trying to push mankind today? He is thinking academically in his approach, but going to many universities today and what you find is an intolerant liberal bias that wants to shut down free speech with everyone that disagrees with them. What freedom?
        God certainly gives freedom, but not this is not freedom by any description.
        If we a really Christians at all, belonging to the Kingdom of God we are in this world but not of it. We do not live in isolation but among our fellowman. We share in the culture, share the food, marriage, children, family with all the rest, but such Christian do not think the same or act the same as this world.

  25. galerimo says:

    The focus of this question needs to remain on Jesus as it is sharing in His priestly role that raises the defenses against women in ordained Catholic ministry.

    Our very exalted Christologies can be an impediment unless they are balanced with the truly and fully human view of Him.

    In the total emptying of his divinity and coming into humanity Jesus fully engaged with our limitations.

    There were limits to his consciousness just as much as there are to ours.

    It is evident that his expectation was not for a long church history but for an immanent arrival of the Kingdom of God. And he clearly left that notion with his disciples.

    He appeared to be convinced that his contemporary disciples would experience the final end of the world.

    It did not seem to occur to him that our Christianity would last so long.

    Another limit of His was his total focus on the Jewish people as the object of his mission.

    With hardly any exceptions He lived every minute within the culture and structures of his day, however critical he certainly was of them all, at times. Every minute in obedience to the will of His Father.

    By preparing and training the other half of our population for ordination we are not undoing some divinely constructed order given directly by God.

    We need no longer live under the yoke of a patriarchy that is oppressive of women. We have come to recognise that equality is a necessary social value just as much as it is evidently valued in God’s creation and plan of redemption.

    So like true disciples of Jesus who welcome His outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on us as Church we can confidently exercise the mature judgment of our faith when we gather as Church.

    The man Jesus, our brother, may never have envisaged the world of today in the course of his lifetime.

    But the Spirit led him in his own day into the ways of liberation; the work of salvation.

    And we too, who are close to Him, are also led by the same Spirit, honestly appraising ourselves of the times we live in.

    So, I agree with you, Quentin, one hundred per cent when you say –

    “I have no doubt that this would benefit the whole Catholic community, and, perhaps, put right what has now become an injustice”.

  26. John Nolan says:

    galerimo

    ‘He appeared to be convinced that …’
    ‘It did not seem to occur to him that …’
    ‘Another limit of his was …’
    ‘In the total emptying of his divinity …’

    No-one could accuse you of holding to an ‘exalted Christology’. But yours is not one that would have been endorsed by the Church Fathers, and is certainly not believed by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and most Protestant denominations.

    To make a case for women priests based on a heresy of your own devising actually weakens the case.

    There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, spread over five continents. We have a bond of unity which means that in a sense we ‘gather as Church’. But in doing so we do not, and cannot, exercise some collective judgement as if we were a vastly enlarged Oxford Union, and do not, and cannot determine doctrine.

    In six years Pope Francis has successfully set cardinal against cardinal and bishop against bishop while steadfastly refusing to ‘confirm the brethren’. There may be method in his madness, but it is not evident to anyone outside his close circle of cronies.

    Yet you appear to believe that the Holy Spirit can get 1.2 billion people to reach a consensus.

  27. John Candido says:

    The Catholic church has been in a chronic vocations crisis for many years.

    Due to this issue, the laity and the clergy of the church experience an intractable and severe problem.

    Where the shortage of priests has been most acute as in countries in South America, an important question arises that seeks an answer.

    Are celibacy and excluding women from the priesthood a discipline and teaching that has an exulted and primordial importance above the Eucharist?

    • Nektarios says:

      John Candido

      The issue of calling of God or vocation in its present chronic crisis is seemingly throughout all the mainstream Churches today.
      What would account for it? I know of many in the priesthood or minstry who misread they had a calling of God to the priesthood.
      Perhaps this is why there is a dearth of men to serve in ministry at the present time. They would not really know what a calling or vocation of God was, for it is seldom if ever taught.

      Serving God and serving the Church is not necessarily the same thing. Priesthood has for centuries got involved in politics, prestige, power and money, actually ministry has, to the people become reduced to the dull and repetitve, lording it over the people of God or their parishioners. You would think this would be a draw to certain kinds of personalities into priesthood, but it seems not, well not in the numbers necessary.

      I don’t quite get what you are getting at in your last sentence above, John?
      If you mean, that celbacy of the priest means totally separated to God and to the work, well it is clear that is not the case as I outlined above.
      Priests, must realize as servants of God, they are servants to the People of God. Lack of understanding that as they should, they lord it over the people of God instead of serving them as they ought.
      There was a day you could phone up the priest and he would asnwer or someone else would. Not nowadays, one can’t get a hold of them for love or money, or leave a message and they don’t reply. Oh yes they are busy alright, nob-nobbing with their clergy friends.

      The issue of women in ministry, as I pointed out at the beginning of this topic and explained runs in the creative ordinance of God. Nothing wrong with woem in leadership at all, but they cannot occupy the space of Headship.

  28. John Nolan says:

    ‘Are celibacy and excluding women from the priesthood a discipline and teaching that has an exulted [sic – I presume ‘exalted’ is meant] and primordial importance above the Eucharist?’ (John Candido).

    The answer is clearly ‘no’. It is because the Apostolic Churches have an ‘exalted’ view of the Eucharist that they teach definitively that a woman cannot confect it. Protestant sects do not regard the Eucharist in the same way, and most of their adherents do not accept the Catholic or Eastern Orthodox theology regarding it. So for them, female ordination is possible, even desirable.

    Celibacy is indeed a discipline, although it goes back at least as far as the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The Latin Church can and does ordain married men in particular circumstances; the Greek Church routinely does so. But in neither Tradition can a man in deacon’s or priest’s Orders marry subsequently, and a married priest cannot be consecrated as a bishop.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan

      I have already pointed out that it has nothing to do with Protestantism as such, female ordination has everything to do with liberalism which is to break down as I said at the beginning of this topic of the divine order of the creative ordinance of God. It has nothing to do with male superiority as such, but the difference between headship and leadership.

      Concerning Celibacy, within the Orthodox Church, I see a flaw and has more to do with ruling over the Church as a Bishop than celibacy. But in my view, this represents a departure from the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice. After all, was not Peter one of the first Bishop of Rome married?

      • John Nolan says:

        Nektarios

        It is probable that other disciples were also married. But they left everything, including their wives, to follow Jesus. Our Lord never claimed that discipleship was easy. In the very early Church married men could become bishops if they put away their wives. However, for practical reasons it made sense to restrict the episcopate to celibates.

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